WNC Nature Center’s Education Program recognized with national award

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced that the Western North Carolina Nature Center has been recognized with AZA’s 2018 Education Award for significant achievement in the “Expanding Impact through Targeted Low Income Outreach Education” program. The WNC Nature Center received this national award during AZA’s September conference in Seattle.


The AZA Education Award recognizes outstanding achievement in educational program design, judging programs on their ability to promote conservation knowledge, attitudes and behavior, show innovation, and measure success.


“Education at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums is marked by a sharing of scientific discovery and a love of nature,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “WNC Nature Center is a leader in conservation education; with its immersive outreach initiative instilling among its participants what Rachel Carson called, ‘a sense of wonder.’”


The WNC Nature Center developed the Targeted Low Income Outreach Education program in response to growing demand from the community.  Low-income schools, Head Start locations, retirement centers, after-school programs, libraries, and others stated admissions fees and travel logistics/costs were too high to make a WNC Nature Center visit possible.   


“We do outreach as a service to our community.  It’s a way to share our mission and educational goals with people who can’t come to us,” said WNC Nature Center Director Chris Gentile. “Over the last two years, we’ve learned the number of people who can’t visit our site is greater than we originally thought.  This year, we’re looking to reach around 10,000 students, preschools, retirees, and other community members.”


The Friends of the WNC Nature Center is a collaborative partner on this project and provides funding to make it possible.


To learn more about AZA’s Honors and Awards, please visit https://www.aza.org/honors-awards.


Asheville’s 42-acre WNC Nature Center is home to over 60 species of animals, including river otters, black bears, red and gray wolves and a Western cougar. Its mission is to connect people with the animals and plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountain region by inspiring appreciation, nurturing understanding, and advancing conservation of the region’s rich biodiversity. The Nature Center is proud to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and seven other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.